Since New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is having a hard time just waving his wand and making the Occupy movement disappear, his latest tactic is to just keep using his own private army to shove it from place to place, knowing that a certain amount of damage will result each time. OWS did enjoy a last hurrah in Liberty Square (a.k.a. Zuccotti Park) on New Year’s Eve – so many protesters turned out that they were able to seize control of the park from the New York Police Department, eventually creating an enormous bonfire-like pile of the metal barricades that ever since the illegal raid the night of Nov. 15 have been used to block and control public access to the park (which is required by law to be publicly accessible around the clock). But the next morning saw the park not only back under NYPD control but entirely closed to the public. Ostensibly it is being “renovated”: a fence is to be installed around its perimeter to impede public access. I have my doubts about the legality of this fence, but since the Mayor clearly considers himself above the law, I don’t expect him to be too concerned about this. Any legal complaints we might choose to make will no doubt be slow to wend their way through the courts.
Meanwhile the Mayor is doing his best to prevent the Occupy Wall Street movement from exercising its right to freedom of assembly. The General Assembly was forcibly shut out of three different legal meeting places this evening, evicted first from Liberty Square itself, then from the lobby of 100 Williams Street, then from 59 Maiden Street. Eventually the assembly was held in the lobby of 33 Maiden Street, but all three of the foregoing evictions constitute illegal harassment: These are all privately owned public spaces that are required by law to remain open to the public at all times, and holding a peaceful public meeting is certainly one of the many ways in which members of the community are allowed to use such spaces. But again, Bloomberg knows that if he orders his private army to evict protesters, the movement’s only way of fighting back will be via a lengthy and cumbersome legal process that will use up a lot of resources. And so he continues to create facts on the ground in his war against the citizens he is supposed to serve. (I almost wrote: “that he was elected to serve,” but since he actually bought his office, that would be inaccurate.) On one side of this war is a ragtag militia armed with ideas, words, energy, facts and hope. On the other side stand massive financial interests, major corporations and the politicians indebted to them, commanding a militarized police force armed with pepper spray, tear gas, sound cannons, helicopters, truncheons and guns; they are well equipped to do battle with enemy combatants.
In short, a very sad state of affairs. All we can do is continue to speak the truth as loudly and clearly as we can, in the hope that many will hear.
Our struggle is just beginning.